Pros: Titillating and sizzlingly erotic; takes a new and different direction with Maid Marian’s tale
Cons: Characters sometimes slow on the uptake; a little too much back-and-forth on who will end up with whom
Rating: 4 out of 5
Colette Gale has a tendency to take famous romantic tales and turn them on their heads while spicing them up with a boatload of erotic sex. I very much enjoyed Unmasqued, her version of Phantom of the Opera. Bound by Honor, a tale of Maid Marian, Robin Hood, and so forth, didn’t grab hold of me quite so tightly, but I did enjoy the story.
Unlike some of the other books I receive for review, Colette Gale’s are more toward the erotica end of the spectrum than the romance end. They’re highly explicit, often with scenes of group sex, as well as elements of coercion. I’m making this clear because each reader tends to have very different ideas of the sort of sexual content that is acceptable, titillating, enjoyable, or offensive, and there’s no point in your picking up a book you won’t enjoy!
While I don’t normally read much in the way of historical romances, Colette Gale’s novels appeal because they use such familiar characters and milieus and give them fun new twists. If you’re unfamiliar with the genre the prose is less spare and more flowery, but once you get used to it, it sets the mood quite nicely. In Bound by Honor, Maid Marian, now the widowed Lady of Morlaix, journeys to the court of Prince John in order to spy on him for his mother. Unfortunately for her, John’s debauched Court of Pleasure is wildly out of control, and John is quite taken with her good looks. Will, the Sheriff of Nottingham and a childhood acquaintance of both Robin and Marian’s, does what he can to protect Marian from John, but he’s also bound to do as John wishes. Walking the fine line of obeying John while keeping Marian from John’s clutches is a nightmare, particularly as he falls in love with Marian while believing her to be Robin’s lover.
While Will enforces the brutal will of Prince John, Robin receives the public’s love as their dashing and arrogant hero. Will he fall for Marian, however, or for Alys, the maiden niece of Queen Eleanor who scorns his attempts at a tryst?
Will is the tortured dark soul, while Robin is the arrogant hero. Alys plays the role that Marian more usually occupies of the headstrong young maiden, while Marian is an older and more experienced woman now. Prince John, for his part, is a dangerous and devious lech. I enjoyed the new take on the tale, although the question of which of the two women would end up with which hero seemed somewhat drawn-out.
The debauchery of the Court of Pleasure is wild and a bit rough; the real problem I had with John is that while he’s portrayed as having some attractiveness to him, I couldn’t help picturing him from an old BBC series a couple of decades ago. And, well, that made any sexual content involving him a bit revolting!
On the beautiful side, Colette has a gift for both evocative narrative that draws the senses in, and wild and steamy sex. On the negative side, I occasionally found the characters a little frustratingly slow on the uptake regarding some details.
As an alternative, steamy version of the Robin Hood milieu, Bound by Honor is definitely an enjoyable book. It didn’t bowl me over as much as Unmasqued did, but it’s still a gorgeous and evocative read!